Subprime college

“Many parents and the children they send to college are paying rapidly rising prices for something of declining quality, ” writes George Will in Subprime college educations.

Quoting Glenn Reynolds” new book, The Higher Education Bubble, Will writes that colleges has become a “status marker” for many people, “signaling membership in the educated caste, and a place to meet spouses of similar status.”

Since 1961, the time students spend reading, writing and otherwise studying has fallen from 24 hours a week to about 15 — enough for a degree often desired only as an expensive signifier of rudimentary qualities (e.g., the ability to follow instructions). Employers value this signifier as an alternative to aptitude tests when evaluating potential employees because such tests can provoke lawsuits by having a “disparate impact” on this or that racial or ethnic group.

Just as the government pumped money into mortgages, it’s pumped money into student loans ”with the predictable result that housing prices/college tuitions soared and many borrowers went bust.”

Tuitions and fees have risen more than 440 percent in 30 years as schools happily raised prices — and lowered standards — to siphon up federal money.

Twenty-nine percent of borrowers never graduate, and many who do graduate take decades to repay their loans.

A Forbes writer’s smart, nonconformist son skipped college: At 27, he’s earning as much as friends with a college degree, owns his home and has started a retirement fund.  Of course, your mileage may vary.

About Joanne


  1. The idea of attending college to meet a suitable spouse is not a recent phenomenon; It’s been around since the early 60s, to my certain knowlege, and quite likely longer. When I was on campus in the early-mid 60s, it was called getting one’s Mrs. degree and was quite common. One of my uncles specifically endorsed this view; it worked for 3 of his 4 kids. Of course, their was the reciprocal hope that guys would meet suitable spouses.

    • My father belonged to the country-boy Jewish fraternity at the University of Nebraska. His “brothers” were sons of peddlers who’d opened general stores in small Nebraska towns. They were sent to college, at least in part, to meet a Jewish girl who wasn’t their sister — and to meet a Jewish guy they could fix up with their sister. Thanks to World War II, my father avoided early marriage.

    • Oops, that was supposed to be “there” in the last sentence.

    • Sean Mays says:

      In business school, it was astounding the number of highly motivated dual degree women we had. The MBA/MRS far outnumbered all other programs combined.

  2. Momof4,

    Quite correct in your analysis. I know many women when I attended in the early 80’s who were just interested in finding potential mates (along with guys). However, being a math and science propeller head, I found no shortages of women who needed tutoring help in those subjects (including some cheerleaders) 🙂

    College has become less and less about actually learning anything, but more like a business model, and the almighty piece of paper (which isn’t worth nearly as much today as a bachelor’s issued in the 1960’s or 1970’s, IMO).